Cultural Foundations of Depth Psychology


The depth psychology approach investigates what is below the psychic demonstrations like behavior, relationships, and dreams. It deals with deep fantasy. This fantasy represents an imaging system, which has been subdued and whose manifestations have been limited with culture and consciousness. Depth psychology enlightens the psychology of culture. It researches customs, films, and music. Revealing personal information is useful for depth psychology. Listening to music awakes emotions, fantasies and images, which are a source of personal information. In some cases, the needs of the patient are expressed immediately through music; in others, which are more productive, they are expressed by means of relationships between the patient and the therapist. Shared emotional experience is very important in psychotherapy. The patient feels secure to show a response. The psychotherapy process is a dialogue in itself. The notion of dialogue is multiple: a dialogue of a therapist and a patient, a patient’s inner dialogue, a therapist’s inner dialogue, a dialogue of cultures and meta-dialogue about the dialogue itself. To help the patient come closer to the unconscious experiences is not an easy task to carry out. Therapy needs direction and a basis for the therapist’s efforts. Thus, music can be a medium of psychotherapy.

Music appeals to patients in a particular way. It brings a direct sensuous pleasure. Emotions, provoked by means of music, form a matter of analysis, which can be followed or go simultaneously with music therapy. In the physiological aspect, the emotional response to music is located on the right side of the brain. The ability to appreciate and form a critical opinion is centered in the left cerebral hemisphere. Thus, we see that the whole brain is engaged in the process of music perception.

If the patient plays any musical instrument, a vast possibility to know much about him opens before a therapist. In this case, music can be equated to speech. Emotions, which are perceived and expressed by means of words by some people, can be perceived by means of music by others. Even if a patient is unable to perform any piece and just listens to the music, his/her emotional response is a field of productive research. Singing, songwriting, and dancing or moving to music help patients develop the emotional sphere.

This postulate is elaborated and vastly used by musical therapists. They consider music to be a tool of psychotherapy. Moreover, music may produce a positive effect on the feeling of well-being. This is on the surface. In terms of depth psychology, system of images arisen through music helps to go from the personal to the transpersonal.

The intersection of musical and emotional experience in terms of musical therapy shows the importance of personal emotional response to music during music therapy.

Emotional effects of music in the process of psychotherapy

Preconditions of emotional response to music in terms of musical therapy

The emotional effect of music depends greatly on various factors. Here belong different types of music, the individuality of response, likes and dislikes, and the possibility of different responses during the following listening. The imagination that responds to music is personal and associative and logical, tinged with effect, tinged with body rhythm, tinged with a dream (Langer, 1957).

Depth psychology assumes that night and daydreaming hypnotic trance, and waking consciousness are different conditions of consciousness. A patient moves into and out of these conditions by means of music.

The more significance music has for a listener, the more dramatic effect it produces. At first, the music provokes pressure waves in a physical aspect. Then on a deeper level, it creates a mood of a particular nature. Thus, it causes a reaction at a subconscious level. Besides pleasurable sensation there exists another more significant kind of reaction to music: the emotional response it is commonly supposed to evoke (Langer, 1957). Emotions arise from past experiences, associations. Memories also play an important part in this process.

Thus, several requirements for effective musical therapy can be formulated. Firstly, the patient should attend therapeutic hours regularly. Permanency is important both for a therapist and a patient. The former has a possibility to produce meta-thinking over the latter. The patient reflects on the music either verbally or producing musical sounds. Awareness of the goals and risks of such therapy is also an essential part of success. It is easier for patients with communication disturbances and differences in expressing emotions to establish contact with a therapist during music therapy.

Obviously, the highest degree of intimacy and contact is provided when a patient and a therapist create music together. Surely, it demands many additional skills and training for both therapist and patient. But it produces a considerable effect because neither music conveys emotions, the listener feels them. In fact, emotions are in the music itself. These emotions are implied by a representation of iconic symbols (Langer, 1957). This particular matter is important for depth psychology in terms of archetypal analysis. Music fulfills the transcendent function, which consists of an archetypal process of starting a dialogue between the consciousness and the unconscious.

Thus, musical therapy can be helpful as a separate or integral part of the therapy, and as a therapy as it is.

Relations between a therapist and a patient during a musical therapy

Music plays a very important role as a means of interpersonal identification. The processes, which take place during the therapeutic hour and involve both therapist and patient, are complicated and diverse. The collaboration and alliance of these two people establish close relations and a foundation for productive sessions. Thinking and meta-thinking about emotions “dreamwork alpha” conveys a more profound sense of intimacy on the part of the analyst with the patient (Grotstein 1995). The feeling of security and assistance from the patient’s side constitute his attitude towards the therapist. Grotstein declares that the analyst must “dream” the patient, or absorb the essence of the patient (1995). Close interaction between these two people results from the above-mentioned circumstances.

Dreaming and fantasy generation evoke an unconscious thinking processes. They can be called unconscious consciousnesses. Attention to one’s mental processes, in fact, meta-thinking, can be called intuition. The emotional experience of the therapist and the patient is responsive to internal psychical reality. The concepts of an emotional truth drive and a truth principle would help us understand why patients are able to accept analysts (Grotstein 2004). Thus, this truth quest or drive generates current experiences, both conscious and unconscious. In the acceptance of reality, intuition can be regarded as a vehicle of patient and therapist for achieving some emotional response from music, because emotional truth is articulated through it.

Music therapists investigate responses and interpret them creating an emotional map of patient’s responses. Ego performs identity and can fulfill it by means of music. Controlled regression in the service of the ego should be replaced by more detailed statements on the specific ego functions (Weissman, 1967). We may call it inspiration in its broad sense. Inspiration is meant not only as a creative urge, but also a bright emotional response. Both can be found in the example of Gleen Gould.

The psychiatrist Peter Ostwald was a friend of Gould, who was a notorious pianist. An example of Gould’s life as a narcissistic pattern of self-concern is tied to his being the genius. Unusual behavior of playing with legs crossed, humming, singing, a very low chair were indications of the fusing of bodily display with musical intelligence (Ostwald, 1997). Performers undergo special stresses, which are complicated by the outstanding capacities, and even a genius. Often the reasons for it can be found in childhood like in Gould’s life. His mother wanted him to become a musician and played music on the gramophone during pregnancy. When baby Glenn could sit, he pressed the keys of the piano on his mother’s knees. His necessity of being near the piano would call back the cordial feelings and closeness of both mother and favorite instrument (Ostwald, 1997).

In terms of our research, we are interested in his emotional responses to some pieces of music. In his childhood some definite music made him burst into tears. Gould became elated. His expression was ecstatic; his eyes were closed or turned inward; and his hands fondled the keyboard of the instrument as if he were making love (Ostwald, 1997). Ostwald tells a lot about his performance. His audience was close to him and at the same time far away, in some divine space (Ostwald, 1997).

This example is valuable as it shows the response of the audience and the musician, who can be both regarded as patients. But a musician is in fact a therapist as well. He cures the listeners and himself. To my mind, there are real difficulties of such kind of therapy. If a therapist and a patient feel the same way, it does not mean that their reaction can be interpreted similarly. And how can the therapist identify the very degree of this similarity? The second difficulty is in provoking an emotional response from the therapist. Whether he should listen together with the patient to get the same experiences for interpretation or be objective in his judgments, observing this process from the outside. This is a controversial problem and it can be partially solved by the therapist, who is able to assess his possibilities.

Music addresses directly to the unconscious. Deeply hidden feelings and emotions can attain the layers of the psyche, which can be analyzed.

Ogden shows an example of establishing relations between a therapist and a patient in an initial part of their collaboration. He asks the patient to listen to his or her listening. In fact, meta-thinking is provoked in both a patient and a therapist. Despite possible incompetent and awkward interpretation, it is extremely valuable and serves as a primary source. “What’s happening between us consciously and unconsciously and how does that relate to other aspects of the patient’s (and the analyst’s) past and present experience, both real and imagined?” (Ogden 1999).

Ogden’s assumptions are vital for an understanding of countertransference, which proves the therapist’s response towards the actual personality of a patient and the patient’s behavior and the therapist’s attitude, determined by personal conflicts and problems. We would like to highlight that the therapist’s inner world is vitally significant in terms of both objective and subjective countertransference.

Application and results of music therapy

Music is a means of the libido to express unconscious emotions. Under libido, we understand energy as a directing and moving power. Our interests, our focus, our drives, our wishes, and our field of activities are all expressions of libido (Warja 1994). Thus, by means of music, we can look into the depth of ego. Surely, music is different and it gives a lot of possibilities to provoke different emotions.

Storr stated that even the most abstract intellectual patterns engage our feelings (1992). In spite of the fact that music is really abstract in its nature, it can be applied to any patient. We mean patient’s background, education and other personal data.

The need for music lies deep in our subconsciousness. Music is a vital part of the communication between people, beginning with lullabies. Music evokes similar physical responses in people, which can make ground for further interpreting. Definite rhythms, tunes, and even music of definite composers proved their therapeutic effect. Positive influence on patients with neurological diseases and problems with conveying emotions can be seen after music therapy.

We regard music as a means to build auditory senses. In this case, it is an obligatory and common condition of its use. But it can become a forerunner to creative discovery. We may correlate it with three levels of music application. On the auxiliary level music therapy makes an additional part. In an attempt to use it, a therapist assesses the possibility of use in terms of the patient’s individuality and probable results in case of further application. On the augmentative level music therapy occupies a greater position and starts to predominate. And the intensive level implies the prevailing of music therapy and its use during every session.

The application of music therapy can be individual and in a group. In the latter case, a patient listens to the music itself and the music of a group. We mean a possibility to perceive connectedness, excitement, and tension within a group. It is more complicated for meta-thinking and its preparation is time-consuming, but it is more productive for the development of interpersonal communication. Here a problem for a therapist arises concerning his participation in the therapy. Whether he should become a part of the group, or stay aside and limit his role to observations only. We stick to the point that anyway is possible for achieving the paramount purpose of making a bridge between the patient and interpretation of his feelings and the feelings of his group. The link between music and a patient will be established automatically by means of response. But an effect can be achieved only after analysis of this very response.

In group therapy, as opposed to individual therapy, a new result can be obtained. Creating a community out of a music therapy group can bring benefits in doing, thinking, and experiencing processes. Innate musicality can be regarded as a means of merging into a group of other individuals.

We can also distinguish two directions of music therapy. The first one is for therapy and restoration of qualities. The second one is for establishing interaction and self-expression. In both cases, the patient achieves at least three goals: improvises, interacts and communicates.

Among therapeutic benefits, we can also enumerate learning new material, improvement in memory skills. And along with the development of communicative skills, reduction of anxiety is a great achievement.

Sound, rhythm, melody, and harmony are important for both the development and renewal of functions. Thus, results can be achieved in prevention, rehabilitation and therapy.

Application of the transpersonal approach to patient’s treatment in terms of music therapy includes behavioral, emotional, and intellectual disorders. Adjustment to the prevailing culture is seen as one of the results of such therapy.


The capacity of an unborn child to react to music proves the great intensity of musical influence. Any child responds to rhythmical stimuli and his mother’s song. And it gives ground to assume that childhood is very important for possible music therapy in the future. We would even highlight the concept of childhood in terms of cultural, social and political contexts. An individual in his interconnections within the society is a subject to many impacts and conventions and it should be taken into consideration by a therapist. Background and experiences prevail in forming an emotional response.

Therapy without medicines is so desired by clinical practice. Music therapy embodies this desire. It is an irreplaceable, transcendental blessing (Storr 1992). It is so rich in its possibilities and so difficult in its application.

In conclusion, we would like to highlight the main points of our research. Music is a universal vehicle. Its elements can be found in any culture and society. On one hand, it makes music a worldwide means of therapy; on the other, it stresses the necessity to use it according to contexts and background. Rhythm, pitch, timbre, and melody are constitutive parts of it.

Music is very broad in its sense. Any vocal (songs), instrumental and mechanical (chatter) patterns can represent a piece of music. Response to music maybe untouched by trauma or disease that makes it possible to use music therapy vastly. Sound as an expressive and perceptive means stands before language. It can be proved by observation of babies and even fetuses. Making sounds freely is a perfect vehicle of communication and expression.

From the transpersonal perspective, music therapy involves the full realization of a patient’s possibilities.


Grotstein, J. S. (1995). Bion’s “Transformation in “O” and the concept of the “Transcendent Position”. Web.

Grotstein, J.S. (2004). The seventh servant: The implications of a truth drive in Bion’s theory of “O”. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 85, 1081-1101.

Langer, S. K. (1957). Philosophy in a new key; a study in the symbolism of reason, rite and art. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Ogden, T. (1999). “The music of what happens” in poetry and psychoanalysis. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 80, 979-994.

Ostwald, P. (1997). Gleen Gould: the ecstasy and tragedy of genius. New York: Norton.

Storr, A. (1992). Music and the mind. New York: Ballantine.

Warja, M, 1994. Sounds of Music through the Spiraling Path of Individuation: A Jungian approach to Music psychotherapy. Music therapy perspectives, 12(2), 75-83.

Weissman, P. (1967). Theoretical considerations of ego regression and ego functions in creativity. The Psychoanalitic Quarterly, 36, 37-50.